Someone filling out an advance healthcare directive.

What Are DNR and POLST Forms?

Health care directives such as a living will and a health care power of attorney are critical elements of a complete estate plan. They empower a person to memorialize extremely important health care choices while they are still healthy and of sound mind. Should you ever become incapacitated and unable to communicate your health care treatment wishes, these documents will speak for you. While you may have heard of health care forms such as a DNR and a POLST form, these documents are no substitution for advance health care directives. Here’s why.

DNR and POLST Forms

In Minnesota, a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) form states that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is not to be administered should the subject of the DNR stop breathing or have their heartbeat stop. This means a DNR order will only apply if an individual does not have a pulse or is not breathing. A Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form covers other life-sustaining treatment options as well as procedures that may reduce a patient’s symptoms. 

The POLST form may be used in addition to or instead of a DNR form. The POLST form and DNR order will both inform EMS and other treating medical professionals as to whether or not the patient wants CPR performed. A POLST form is more comprehensive in the information it provides than a DNR form. In a POLST form, a patient can opt for full treatment, selective treatment, or comfort-focused treatment. Full treatment means that the patient will want to go to the hospital and have all treatment options considered. Selective treatment means that the patient may not want a breathing machine, but wants other basic medical treatments. Comfort focused treatment means a patient does not want to go to the hospital but wants to maintain a certain level of comfort.

It is very important to note, however, that DNR and POLST forms are no replacements for health care directives. This is because of the crucial differences between all of these documents. If a patient finds themselves in critical condition, he or she may request a DNR or POLST form from medical personnel. A POLST form, however, is only appropriate for a very specific patient group. A POLST is put in place by patients who have critical, advanced illnesses. These are patients that are not likely to survive much longer. Health care directives are for all capable adults of sound mind. You are able to put an advance health care directive in place when you are healthy. Additionally, and this of substantial importance, you cannot name a health care agent on a POLST. You may do so via a health care directive.

Health Care Directive Attorney

Health care directives can provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind. Rare is the chance to gain some control over an otherwise unknown and uncontrollable future. For all of your estate planning and health care directive needs, contact Unique Estate Law today.